Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Are you carnal or courtly?

Curious as to what $8k will buy you in books? Well have a look. I'd heard about the package where you could get (nearly) every book in the Penguin Classics Library. That's one thousand books clocking in at 750 pounds. It comes in 25 boxes on a wooden pallet. The obvious question is why buy it? I tend to buy more books than I can read, but not that many more. One of the only Amazon reviewers who actually bought the thing is a librarian and takes pleasure in cataloging and recataloging the books. Sort of like the character in High Fidelity.

I think this may be an extreme example of what Anne Fadiman calls a courtly book lover. The courtly book lover loves their books, but they love them as objects. They may not even read a particularly valuable one as it may damage it. Instead they will buy a cheap "reading copy," which they later toss aside. Carnal book lovers, among which Fadiman counts herself, love the words rather than the solid object and hold on to favorites even as they fall apart. They are also given to writing in the margins, having a dialogue of sorts with the author.

Her model is a little severe, I guess I am a little carnal and a little courtly. I want to enjoy the book, not just look at it, but I get a little annoyed when I see exclamation points, question marks and commentary in the margins myself.

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